Hendel: Attacks in Gush Katif Are PA Response to Withdrawal Talk

As Israeli government officials continue to raise the possibility of withdrawing from Netzarim and other Jewish locations in Gaza, PA terrorists show their "appreciation" with stepped-up offensives.

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Following several hours of heavy gunfire attacks last night - no soldiers were hurt, and the units returned fire - the Arabs bombarded N'vei Dekalim with at least 15 mortar shells this morning. The shells exploded near a school, shopping center and local offices in Gush Katif's largest community as hundreds of children walked to school and nursery. No one was hurt, but cars and stores were damaged.

Car-driven roving loudspeakers calling on Arabs in Khan Yunis to take part in the fighting against the "Zionist enemy" were heard loud and clear in Jewish communities last night and this morning. The incitement had immediate effects.

Two shells hit Netzarim this morning, including one that scored a direct hit on a house. Here, too, no one was hurt.

Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Yitzchak Levy (NRP) said on Friday that Prime Minister Sharon had told NRP leaders that there is a possibility that Jews will not be able to remain in Gaza. Levy said that Sharon told the NRP leaders on Wednesday that this issue will have to be looked into, but did not elaborate. Levy said that it was not clear whether Sharon was referring to a final-status arrangement, or to the unilateral gestures he is planning in the event that negotiations with the PA remain stuck.

Deputy Education Minister Tzvi Hendel (National Union), a resident of Ganei Tal in Gush Katif, said last night that the "booms of war we hear from the Palestinian Authority are the Arab response to the voices of defeatism and despair that Israeli ministers are sounding. The talk of evacuating and uprooting Jewish communities and a unilateral withdrawal is a direct endangerment to the soldiers and the residents here. They encourage the Arabs to perpetrate more and more terrorist and other offensives."

During the course of the special Netzarim solidarity Sabbath, which over 1,000 people spent in the small community in central Gaza, at least ten bombs exploded outside the town, and two anti-tank shells were fired towards nearby IDF positions. No one was hurt.

The special Sabbath was arranged on less than two weeks' notice in light of talk by Cabinet ministers in favor of withdrawing from the town. Capping this off, as reported on Friday by Arutz-7, was the report that Prime Minister Sharon and Defense Minister Mofaz have been formulating a plan to actually evacuate the 60 families from Netzarim and leave only soldiers there.

Netzarim's Rabbi Tzion Tawil gave expression to the uplifting feeling of enthusiasm that enveloped all who participated in the Sabbath: "We came away with a sense of great strength and uplifting. We know that there is great support within the public for Netzarim and for strengthening our hold all over the Land of Israel." Netzarim was founded 31 years ago. Rabbi Tawil said, "We do not for a moment entertain the thought that someone would try to uproot this community. Prime Minister Sharon has said many times in the past that he regrets his mistake in having done so in Yamit [in 1982]."

Each family hosted 2-3 visiting families, and hundreds of other guests slept in schools, tents, and other available areas. Four main prayer services were held, and those who did not eat in private homes were assigned to one of four public "dining rooms." Among the guests were Tourism Minister Benny Elon, Yesha Council leaders Adi Mintz and Bentzy Lieberman, and Rabbis Yehoshua Tzuckerman and Daniel Shilat. MKs Ehud Yatom (Likud) and Uri Ariel (National Union) are scheduled to arrive today for a visit.